China’s Ministry of Health has issued first aid guidelines for helping elderly people who have fallen down. Falls are the primary cause of death among China’s 150 million citizens aged 65 and over, and “effective and timely treatment will reduce the damage incurred by falling down,” according to the guidelines.

“If the person shows symptoms of a stroke, fracture or lumbar damage, passers by should not move them, they should call an ambulance immediately,” the booklet says. “If necessary, witnesses should help the fallen person stop bleeding, clean the vomit from their mouths and nasal cavities, or administer other first aid measures.”

However, there has been an unexpected backlash from many Chinese who fear being sued if they help others. In Nanjing, a young man alighting from a bus went to the assistance of an elderly woman who had been knocked down by a fellow passenger. The woman eventually sued her protector, saying he was the one who knocked her down. The court ruled that the innocent man was liable to pay for 40 per cent of the total costs of the court case.

More recently, a bus driver went to the help of an 81-year-old woman he saw lying on the ground by the side of her overturned tricycle. She told police that he was the driver who hit her. Fortunately for the driver, the bus was equipped with a video camera that showed the woman was lying.